Source: Review copy
Publication: 21st August 2018 from HQ
Silence can be deafening.
Jean McClellan spends her time in almost complete silence, limited to just one hundred words a day. Any more, and a thousand volts of electricity will course through her veins.
Now the new government is in power, everything has changed. But only if you’re a woman.
Almost overnight, bank accounts are frozen, passports are taken away and seventy million women lose their jobs. Even more terrifyingly, young girls are no longer taught to read or write.
For herself, her daughter, and for every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice. This is only the beginning…
[100 WORD LIMIT REACHED]
It is a few days since I finished this book and still my overwhelming feeling is of white hot rage; an anger that fills me and makes me want to rail against everything that is wrong in our society right now.
This is a book for anyone who has ever been too busy to protest; who has never felt strongly enough to vote or to go on a march or to voice their opposition. It is a book about what can happen when you fail to use your voice.
It does, as indicated, have clear links to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, yet what sets this apart is that you can all too clearly believe that this would be on the agenda of some in America in the present day.
It may be billed as dystopian, but the way things are going – and just look carefully at the section on the make up of the Supreme Court – a future that sees the freedom of speech severely restricted for women does not feel too out of the question.
Jean McClellan, in common with all women and female children is fitted with a device that counts the words they use, and ensures, by way of progressive punishment that those words are limited to 100 per day.
An intelligent woman, a scientist, she can no longer work, but is required to stay at home and be a homemaker, looking after her sons and daughter. Jean is concerned for the world that her young daughter is growing up in; she sees her son accepting the indoctrination he has been exposed to, but what really stands out is the compliant acceptance of the verbal restrictions, alongside of course, the removal of books, internet devices and anything that might stimulate a woman’s brain.
This is neutering of communication; imposing a silence guarantees acquiescence and renders opposition futile and meaningless.
As a scientist Jean was on the verge of a breakthrough. Her work on aphasia (impairment of the brain impacting on the ability to speak or use language) came to a halt with the election of those who created the Pure Society. Now her skills may be needed by the government, but can she use this moment to her advantage and make her voice heard again?
There is a great deal to think about in this almost but not quite dystopian novel. I enjoyed the characterisation and though the end did not 100% work for me , there is enough strength and idea driven narrative to make this a stunning and thought provoking read.
Verdict: A killer idea. Next time you see and hear the warning signs, will you stay silent?
About Christina Dalcher
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